Sunday, June 05, 2016
The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem have their Priory, dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation, in Charles Town, WV. The dedication recalls the Augustinian canons' foundation at Walsingham, the ancient Shrine to Our Lady in England; the CRNJ are founded to make reparation for the destruction of that Shrine and for the abandonment of the Catholic Faith by the canons regular during the Protestant Reformation.
Located just a block from the heart of historic Charles Town which was founded in 1786 by Charles Washington (brother of the first U.S. President), the canons have the care of a small church which belongs to the Diocese but which is given to them as their permanent oratory. It is a charming rural church which the CRNJ have transformed into a sanctuary of worship and prayer, reminiscent of the medieval Shrine of Walsingham in its intimacy and candle-lit beauty; votive candles burn constantly before the image of Our Lady of Walsingham at the Lady Altar. As a English Dominican, I was glad to be able to celebrate a private Low Mass in the Dominican rite at this Altar.
The Liturgy here at the CRNJ is celebrated in its entirety according to the Extraordinary Form, both the Mass and the Divine Office, and the other sacraments. Often the liturgical form can be separated from the rest of one's religious life. So, for example, if one occasionally celebrates the Mass according to the 1962 Missal, the Mass in this form is somewhat marooned from the rest of the former Liturgy and also from a religious life that gave it its context. This is not the case for the CRNJ, and I found this deeply attractive. For the old Mass in Latin flowed organically from the Latin Divine Office, as well as from the other sacraments such as Confession, for example. Thus I had the chance to hear Confessions in the older form in Latin on Sunday before the High Mass, and one sees at once the connection between the prayers and formulas used in Confession, and again at the beginning of the Mass. Moreover, as I stood in choir and prayed the psalms of Matins in Latin, I felt a connection to St Dominic, who would have done likewise with his fellow canons regular in Osma. And as I looked at the tonsures on the heads of these canons today I recalled that St Dominic and the other Dominican saints are often shown with tonsures, as had been our practice too until recently.
What I discovered this past weekend, then, was a thriving and inspiring community gathered around the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem, who are committed to the Church's living Tradition – not as a showpiece nor because of 'nostalgia' nor with any combative sense, as such, but because this Tradition sustained the Faith of many, and formed countless souls in holiness. One such person, indeed, became the sainted founder of the Order of Preachers.
Currently the CRNJ numbers three: Dom Daniel Augustine, Dom John Berchmans, and Dom Alban. However, if so much can be accomplished by three, imagine what more could be done if their number were to double. So, I would encourage young men who are thinking of a religious vocation, and who are committed to the traditional Liturgy, to consider the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem; do go and visit them. At the very least, you'd have a good retreat and some quiet days of beautiful worship and prayer – I know I did!
For inquiries about vestments, or for more information about the CRNJ community and vocation, please contact the Prior, Very Rev. Dom Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer. Address: Priory of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 219 South George Street, Charles Town, WV 25414. Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org